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Tsukano eases back into offense


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POSTED: Thursday, October 08, 2009

She's never had trouble adjusting.

Not to going to college on the mainland. Not to the academic demands required of a biology major. And not when being asked to go from libero to outside hitter.

None of it has fazed San Jose State senior Kristal Tsukano (Kamehameha '06) who, at 5-foot-3, is one of the smallest hitters — if not THE smallest — in Division I volleyball.

“;It's been really fun, getting to play on the outside again,”; Tsukano said. “;There are more things to worry about but it's been super good.”;

Tsukano's senior year at Kamehameha included a state title. Her senior year at San Jose State has yet to include a victory, with the 0-13 Spartans taking on No. 4 Hawaii tomorrow night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

“;We had a rough preseason,”; Tsukano said of playing the first 10 matches on the road, five against ranked teams. “;It's been tough but it's made us better. Pointed out the areas we needed to improve. Hopefully, we will continue to get better.”;

There have been a few bright spots this season for the winless Spartans and Tsukano is among them. She is the only SJSU player to be named to an all-tournament team (at Cal's Molten-Hilton Garden Inn Classic); she continues to ascend the school's career dig list (No. 3 at 1,192) and, after three seasons mostly on defense, she has two double-doubles (11 kills, 18 digs against Eastern Washington and 14 kills, 13 digs against Boise State).

               

     

 

LOCAL SPARTANS

        San Jose State women's volleyball players with local ties:
       

Kristal Tsukano 5-3, Senior, OH Kamehameha '06 Brianna Amian 5-10, Junior, OH Moanalua '07 Caitlin Andrade 5-9, Freshman, S Kamehameha '09 Alex Akana 6-0, Freshman, MB/OH Kamehameha '09

       

“;She's been a very valuable asset to this program,”; Spartans coach Oscar Crespo said. “;It's not so much her versatility — which is fantastic — it's her coachability.

“;Kristal accepts her role very well and with pride. She accepts change and wants to do what is best for our team and our program. I will miss what she brings to the court, for sure, but I will also miss her as a person and the joy she brings to everything she does.”;

When she came to San Jose State, Tsukano was the only player from Hawaii. Three more have since joined her: junior hitter Brianna Amian (Moanalua '07), who is sitting out this season for medical reasons; and two freshmen out of Kamehameha: setter Caitlin Andrade and hitter/middle Alex Akana.

“;They're doing really well, were ready to go straight in and play,”; Tsukano said of Andrade and Akana, who are both starting. “;They've stepped right in to fill positions we needed filled. They've been a big help for us.”;

Tsukano chose San Jose State because it was relatively close to home and she liked the area — no Zippy's, but there is an L&L. And, with the Spartans in the same conference as the Rainbow Wahine, there would be an annual trip to play at the Stan Sheriff Center.

“;This is going to be my last time and I'm looking forward to it,”; said Tsukano, who turns 21 on Monday. “;There's such a welcoming feeling when you play there. I get to see family and friends and you get leis from the aunties.

“;There's such good energy in there. They really appreciate volleyball.”;

Tsukano is a three-time academic All-WAC honoree and was an ESPN Magazine/COSIDA all-district selection last year. The only classroom struggle for the future pharmacist was deciding on a major.

“;Had the hardest time making that decision,”; she said. “;And it was a big change with a new coach (Crespo replaced Craig Choate after her freshman season).

“;But I never thought about transferring. There is so much more to college. Volleyball is not everything.”;